Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Kelly Harland: Kelly Harland Sings Jerome Kern: Long Ago and Far Away

Voice, piano and bass: the essence of intimacy. The closeness in this session is palpable: singer Kelly Harland and bassist Chuck Deardorf are married. The only outsider is pianist Bill Mays. But as every insider knows, he’s the accompanist most singers would kill for. He demonstrates why from beginning to end; each track is a master class in how to comp supportively behind a jazz singer. Deardorf is no slouch when it comes to suportive comping, but on “Yesterdays” he creates, in the intro, a minefield to challenge Kelly. She rises to it by simply singing melody, yet her jazz feeling makes it swing. (How did she find her starting note?) When Mays joins the fray, he and Deardorf stretch out and quote each other in a fiercely swinging, three-against-four give-and-take: the instrumental highlight of the album.

Vocal high points are more difficult to describe because Kelly’s vocal style is elusive. She has limited range and some difficulty sustaining tones, yet she is a riveting singer. What she has going for her are interpretive chops: fast or slow, she can reach deep down in her gut, and, using her naturally soulful voice, her instinctive jazz phrasing and keen sense of time, add her “instrument” to the rhythm section, creating a pleasing blend. Without resorting to improvisation (even though she demonstrates it in places,) Harland has the ability to heighten the swing pulse by soaring over the kinetic duo in her confident legato.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published